First off, if you're on Facebook, there are some good photos of the trip so far. Larry and Suzanne have posted quite a few photos, and I have one of the albums linked to my page. We'll try to get them up elsewhere for those of you abstaining from FB.
Today was full. We entered and passed on foot through the checkpoint on the way between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Our experience as American tourists was nothing compared with what Palestinian workers have to go through every morning at the wee hours to make it through to their jobs or that people seeking medical care go through. But it was slightly more real than our usual wave through on the tour van.
We toured the wall and saw the bizarre twists it makes all the way around peoples' homes and the traditional site of Rachel's Tomb. We met a woman whose house had been occupied by soldiers... I believe it was during the beginning of the second Intifada and the siege on the Nativity Church in 2002 (Operation Defensive Shield as it is also known). Her whole family was very shaken, and now having the wall immediately bordering two sides of her house doesn't help either. Below you can see her house and the separation wall. The neighborhood had previously been well-to-do and had a lot of businesses that are now destroyed or untenable because of the placement of the wall.
We went back through the checkpoint, and attended a presentation by the Israeli human rights watchdog group B'tselem. Their integrity, professionalism, and commitment were truly inspiring. In contrast to Danny Seideman yesterday who only wanted to talk about the solution and not about human rights, B'tselem only talks about human rights, and does not involve itself in speculating on one- or two-state solutions or anything like that. They just research, fact-check, and publish. I highly recommend checking out their reports and videos that can be found on their website.
We also met with Sabeel, an ecumenical Christian Palestinian organization committed to promoting liberation theology across denominations and religions. I know that Dianne is also planning to post about the meetings and events from today, but I wanted to throw out a few links and impressions before going to bed.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom
Shalom, Peace, Salaam
Salaam, Shalom, Peace
and a hope-filled future for all the inhabitants of this land